Did I give up on my dream of becoming an artist…or am I right where I need to be?

So here’s a little bit about me: My name is Kayleigh, I am 22 years old and I am only half way through my university degree. However before I can get to the good stuff I have to take you right back.

From a young age I always dreamt of being an artist. When I was in secondary school I lived and breathed art. Although I was very academic I only worked hard in other subjects (history & business) so that I could get the grades I needed to get into art school.

Long story short… my hard work paid off and my childhood dream came true. I was going to be an artist!

The calm before the storm 

In September 2016 I packed my bags and moved to the big city (Belfast). I was full of hopes and dreams; nothing was going to get in my way. Throughout my first semester my attitude changed. This course was not living up to my expectations, my dreams. I changed as a person. My parents noticed how unhappy and unenthusiastic I had become. This course was draining my passion for art from me day by day.

I have been told it takes real courage to change direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Insight into Art School

One thing that you should know about studying art is that the meaning is more important than the execution. For example you could be amazing at art. You could draw the most perfect portrait, or paint the most beautiful painting the world has ever seen. But the question is… WHY did you draw that, what does it mean? 

It’s pretty…yes… but it doesn’t have a purpose or a story! (This is what they will tell you)

On the other hand someone could grab a ruler and draw a straight line. Perhaps they are feeling adventurous today and draw a square. But this is no ordinary square. Their square is the lines that define society.

My point is: It doesn’t matter how good the execution/final piece is, if there is no story or purpose to the art you will not get a good grade.

So is the creative idea more important than the execution if you want to become a successful artist?

*Come January 2017 I dropped out of my degree. I felt as though my world had ended but I couldn’t continue being this unhappy.

New Strategy

In September 2017 I started a new course: Communication, Advertising & Marketing at UU. To be honest I applied for this degree blindly. My dreams had been shattered. The future, unknown.

I was taught in school that marketing was a type of business degree that involved boring people in suits sitting in an office all day long reading reports etc. You would lead an extremely boring life…but hey you would be loaded!

How wrong was I? I was led down this path for a reason.

The re-invention of myself to date

I am now 4 months into my placement year at The Irish News. Every day I am faced with a new challenge or a new campaign. We create and pitch ideas. My ideas are actually listened to and taken on board. Once we establish that magic idea, we create a brief and send it to designers. We brief them on exactly what we would like the campaign to look like. From imagery, to colours to the overall design.

So am I the artist or is the designer who knows how to use photoshop?

I may not have created the final product…. BUT I was taught in art school that the final product is worthless if it doesn’t have a purpose/a story/a message.

It was drilled into me that I had a stupid dream because being an artist was like being a pop star, “you are never going to make it” “what will you do as a job”. There was a very slim chance that the world would see my art.

 

“Don’t give up on your dream because it is not going in the direction you want. There are different routes to the same destination. Stay focused and determined.”-  Janice Harris      

 

I took a different direction to achieving my dream. The dream I am now living.

I am no Picasso or Van Gogh but I guarantee that the majority of you reading this will have seen our artwork in the newspaper, online or perhaps on the side of a bus, you just don’t know it.

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Being a marketer means that my art is seen by the world, it has a purpose, it has a message and it has made a difference.

 

So… has my dream changed or developed? -That’s up for debate.

 

Kayleigh Tinney is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, current doing a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on: Instagram – @Kayleightinney and LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleigh-tinney-76b240161/.

What I would tell myself 365 days ago…

I am currently on my year-long placement with Danone Ireland and I am lucky enough to enjoy it. However, it can be so easy to land yourself a job that you really don’t like. But this is good too. Here’s why…

I am writing this now because I was reminded of the stress of applying for placement jobs when helping a good friend with her CV in preparation for job applications. It made me question that when you start applying for your third-year internship, what do you really know? I mean you’ve only really completed one year of university and are still taking a wide variety of completely new modules and topics. How can you possibly know what role you want to undertake for a year? That’s the thing, you don’t. I study Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University which should really be called Communication, Advertising, Marketing, PR, digital media and graphic design, because there’s so much more to the degree than the title portrays. And this isn’t just my degree, every undergrad degree is the same and offers various career path options. Unless of course you’re studying a vocational subject like nursing, medicine or teaching- then you usually know what you’re going into… I hope!

To get to my point, with a degree like mine, I reckon it will take a couple of jobs before I properly find my niche in something I really love and would settle with.

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When I was applying for internships last year, I stressed about it so much, I wanted something as quickly as possible, simply so that I could enjoy my year without that added weight on my shoulders. I was so envious of my friends when they’d arrive in class with the news of their job and all I had was either an attempt at a CV, a handful of confidence knocking rejections or the guilt of non-applied for jobs. There’s always that person that has a job in the bag by Day 1- I was not that person. I knew I wanted to go to Dublin. That was all. So that’s all I applied for really. And yes, it may sound naïve to apply for the place before the job, but why not? I am still a student and for me, a change of location was all part of the experience. And I knew that wherever I ended up I was going to learn something anyway so that’s where my focus was. Dublin is one of the friendliest cities

I went through the motions of applications, online interviews, face-to-face interviews, assessment days, cover letter and CV editing and of course, rejections. But the way I looked at it was, yes, this is for a real-life job, but only as a taster for the future…. Realistically, no company is going to fully depend on a student or expect them to change the world. We are there to learn and develop. Life is full of people that won’t get you or appreciate you or agree with you, so of course rejections are inevitable. I learned so much from the application process alone, the most important thing being not to take everything so personally because that gets you absolutely nowhere! My dream job was a Marketing and Publicity role with Warner Bros. Ireland and I was shortlisted to the top 9 candidates meaning I had to attend an assessment day. I was beyond nervous for this but when I was further shortlisted to the top four, I started believing in myself for once, that maybe I could be good enough. Anyway, long story short I received a phone call in the middle of a good old Holylands’ barbecue to say I didn’t get the job. The enjoyable street party was unfortunately short-lived because I cried that much I went home. I had had enough, bearing in mind this was mid-late April, I felt like time was running out. I honestly couldn’t understand why I wasn’t good enough and thought this was just the end of the world. It was one of those situations where you hear news that completely blow any other worry, excitement or feeling completely out of the park until they don’t matter anymore in the slightest. I hated life. After a couple of hours of life contemplation (I am so dramatic), I recognised that I couldn’t actually have done anything more in that interview, so it obviously wasn’t meant to be!

One of the questions I kept asking myself last year was, ‘how am I supposed to know what I want to do?’ and what I would tell myself 365 days later is that you don’t. Careers are like one big chain of trial and error. My job at Danone is mostly communications and corporate affairs. This isn’t what I envisaged for myself 365 days ago but here we are. I would tell myself not to worry if I get a job I don’t like, because then I will know what I can rule out for the future. I am walking/ running down a career path where I believe change is inevitable and absolutely necessary in order to learn and develop. I would tell myself that placement is only one of the small and first pieces of the ‘Hannah’s Life Jigsaw’. It isn’t the be all and end all, there’s still plenty more to be put into place.Image result for the life jigsaw

Last year, I put so much pressure on myself to get this ‘dream placement’ and yes, it’s good to have a goal or an idea, but I would tell myself not to fixate on it. There will be aspects of every job you won’t like and aspects you do. But theseopinions give you the chance to fine tune the end goal you want for yourself. I am in a comms role and enjoying it. But placement has allowed me to develop my plan that I want to get a masters and a job in other aspects of my degree aside from communications, because you never really know until you try.

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Less stress is best.

 

Hannah Gilsenan is a third year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @han_gil98 and LinkedIn – Hannah Gilsenan

Placement Panic

In this exact moment in time I wish I could just press pause in my life so all the stresses and worries of second year could disappear into thin air and just bugger off for an appreciated 5 minutes (that’s all I’m asking for).

It pains me to say that I am guilty of entering second year with the delusional mindset that it’s not going to be that much harder than 1st year, however, spoiler alert, it actually is a LOT harder.

I know there will be other people in my class who will read this and laugh at me because they may think so far second year is a breeze. They obviously haven’t felt the same weight on their shoulders as I have and if that is the case honestly fair play because I’d love to be in your position. However, surprise – I am not! Because here I am, writing this blog about how incredibly stressed out I am and it’s only the start of November.

The main cause of my current condition of basically just being a big bag of nerves is due to the dreaded topic of placement. At present, the only thing that seems to be going through my sore little head are the words ‘placement’ and ‘CV’. I’m sure many people have been in a similar position, because no one wants to consider that there will be a time (very soon) when they’ll not be kicking around the Jordanstown mall with their mates or making their way down to the Hatfield on a casual Tuesday night, for the weekly ‘County Holylands’. Instead, they’ll be making their overnight oats, laying out their clothes for their 9-5 in the office and anticipating the dreaded alarm blaring beside them at 7am the next morning. I know I know; I honestly can’t bare to think about it myself, I’ll start tearing up.

However folks, this is the sad reality of the dreaded placement life the majority of us will unfortunately all face at some stage in our university lives. So I’m writing this blog because I want my fellow stressed students to know I feel your pain, like a slap in the face, I feel it. It’s daunting, nerve-wracking and just down right scary that we have to step foot into the adult way of life and start putting together a 2 page document that defines exactly who we are, what we can do and what we’re good at.  Realistically, it would take a lot more for the people reading them to see how pretty amazing we all really are.

Personally, I’m not even exactly sure what it is I want to do yet, or what route of my course I want wander down because there’s so many different opportunities. I’m anxious about every possible aspect of placement, including what tasks I’ll be trusted with, what clothes I’ll wear everyday (so I look suitable for the role), if I’ll find myself in the same place or perhaps across waters in new surroundings (which in itself, comes with a whole lot more responsibilities my brain can’t even bare to consider right now) and if the people I’ll be working alongside will even like me…and not kick me out.

So I’ll end on a slightly higher note than I started. If anyone stumbles across this word vomit I have splattered out onto this page, and even slightly relates to how I’m feeling then please let me know! It’s a lot easier to suffer when you’re suffering alongside someone else who’s in the same boat, someone who reassures and comforts you because THEY GET YOU. As the saying goes, “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry”, so let’s all try have a laugh, even if we’re all just laughing at ourselves.

Holly Gillan is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing BSc student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Facebook: Holly Gillan, Twitter: @Hollyg453, Instagram: hollygillan987 and LinkedIn: Holly Gillan

Placement, In Retrospect

Everyone’s placement journey is different, for some of us we may find our dream job in one interview and for others, it may take several bottles of Rescue Remedy and endless nights on Glass Door.com.

What I learnt from the placement process is the most important thing you have to market is yourself, or how about, #SWOTYourself?

Strengths

Yes, we all did well in our A Levels, we’re here for that reason – we work hard, but we are not homogenous. Each of us offers something unique to future employers, some of us know what that is and some of us don’t but if the fit is right for you, your placement will be your match.

Try your best not to let your nerves get the best of you – excel in your strengths and your ability to communicate your ideas on why you are the best match for the prospective placement.

Weaknesses

My name’s Olivia McKearney and I completed six placement interviews; the first 1-4 were train wrecks. I prepped for each for them, had pages of notes of buzz words memorised but when I sat in front of the panel, everything was forgotten. I stuttered answers even though I knew I was more than capable to answer those questions.

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After each politely worded rejection I gave up for a few months, I applied for a final two placements and gave myself the ultimatum that if I didn’t get them I would go straight to final year – which is a completely worthy path but not the one I had planned to pursue.

On a Wednesday in May I had my fifth interview and I went in with one thing that had been absent from disasters 1-4, Confidence. I wasn’t intimidated anymore by the people across the table, I was able to converse with them because I knew the answers, and I didn’t need memorised statements.

The next day, I had my sixth interview. That afternoon, I was offered both placements and chose to accept McKeevers Chemists based in my home county of Armagh. You wait for a bus and two come at once.

Don’t become disillusioned, it will work out.

Opportunities

These prospective employers are here to give us opportunities to succeed, they wouldn’t have advertised the role if they didn’t want us, we’ll be taken seriously and treated professionally. I can only speak to my own experience when I say I received an unprecedented amount of opportunities on this year. From event planning, social media influencer outreach and content creation, this year provided the building blocks to my future career.

Don’t let anyone look down on your chosen placement, I have had, and still have people question the experience of what you can “really” achieve in a local company – check out my CV.

Some people remain largely ignorant to the effects of marketing, but not us as students, take every opportunity you can.

Threats

The obvious threat is that of competition amongst fellow students. We’ve faced that our entire educational career and it’s not going anywhere. As I said, you are unique as a person, better yourself and let employers see the real you across the desk – don’t let the biggest threat to success be you.

Placement was a pivotal year for me; I become financially stable and massively independent;

  • I travelled the West Coast of America for three weeks with my best friend.
  • I made my way to Budapest for a once in a lifetime music festival.
  • I realised the career path I want to endeavour and enhance my skills at.
  • I made wonderful friends and connections.
  • I achieved my own personal KPIs and know that I am more than capable and deserve my standing in the future of Communications.
  • I made myself proud.

If I can do it, you can too.

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Olivia McKearney is a Final Year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/olivia-mckearney  

 

 

A Year In The Real World

Here it goes, first blog and I don’t really know where to go with it but I’ll start by saying I’m currently writing this to avoid thinking about the dreaded dissertation! Week 4 and I still don’t know what I’m going to write 10,000 words on, surely I can’t be the only one?

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Rewind to March 2018, a second year student competing with hundreds of others for an opportunity to take a year away from studying and get a taste of what it’s like to work in ‘the real world’. At this stage in the year many students have already secured their placements but me being me I put it off until almost the last minute. May quickly came around and I finally bagged myself a few interviews, only to be rejected! At this stage I was talking myself into forgetting about doing a placement year and moving straight into final year, sure it would mean graduating a year sooner than expected and being done with Uni, that doesn’t sound too bad? (or so I tried to convince myself)

The summer had well and truly started and I still didn’t know where I was going to be come September, meanwhile others in my class had already started their jobs, I spent the next 3 weeks checking my emails about 30 times a day hoping Conor would send a job ad that I liked the look of. To spare you all reading another paragraph of invaluable information about my hunt for placement, my lucky day came and after a successful interview I was offered a 12 month post with Tourism Northern Ireland, yay! So don’t panic, even if you think you have left it too late you still have a chance to get a good placement.

Day one, the 17th of September and as you can imagine I was as nervous as I had ever been, I was a student with no experience, how am I going to know what to do? What if they expect too much of me? What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t like them? How am I going to get up at 6am every morning for the next year and travel 45 miles to Belfast!?

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First things first, if you are planning on taking a placement year I would HIGHLY recommend applying to Tourism NI, I couldn’t have asked for a better organisation to spend a year with. I joined the Social and Digital Marketing team and although I am studying a mainly PR focused degree I wanted something a little more marketing related, so this was perfect for me. Therefore if you can take anything from this, don’t limit yourself to what you apply for, if it’s not exactly what your degree title is and you think you could do it and meet the job requirements then go for it!

The team I worked in covered so much including looking after the Discover Northern Ireland website, consumer facing social media channels, digital partnerships and influencer marketing, data feeds, email marketing and visitor information along with all the general day to day admin. I think it’s fair to say that I got an excellent all round experience of all things digital marketing.

I had a lot of great experiences working with TNI but the highlight of the year has to be getting the opportunity to be involved ‘A Major’ (excuse the pun) sporting event in Northern Ireland. Unless you were living under a rock you will be well aware that The 148th Open was held at Royal Portrush in July and I got to spend a few days working in the TNI Marquee at the event – Not even our lovely Northern Irish weather could put a dampener on this!

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I have 3 top tips for anyone who decides to do a placement.

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  1. Network, Network, Network! You will come into contact with many people and other businesses throughout your time on placement so build as many relationships as you can with these people as you never know when these connections could be useful in the future.
  2. Don’t be scared to ask questions! We all like to pretend we know everything and don’t need any help, but the most important thing is if you are unsure about something no one is going to punish you for asking a question. After all a simple question is so much easier than putting extra pressure on yourself and trying to figure it out alone (This is something I wish I got into my head a lot sooner than I did).
  3. . Enjoy your year, take every opportunity and make a good impression.

Finally, after contemplating not taking a placement year I can now say I am so glad I did and I had the best year with Tourism NI. I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity of doing a placement year as you will gain invaluable experience and meet some great people along the way. If you’re lucky enough to get into TNI, I hope your experience is as successful as mine was!

Back to thinking about the dissertation for me…

Megan

Megan Carton is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/megan-carton-351485182/

Introducing Orlagh Shanks: An Interview With The UK’s Best PR Blogger 2018 & 2019

 

This is blogger, and former PR student, Orlagh Shanks (22), who runs the blog https://orlaghclaire.com/, where she talks all things PR related happening in the world from day to day. She also discusses all sorts of life experience topics, such as being a student, living in different cities of the world and general lifestyle categories.

I was drawn into Orlagh’s blog when I was exploring the idea of studying a PR related course at university, and with Orlagh being from the same town as me and attending the same secondary school, I felt I could gain some well trusted guidance from her blog.

Her blog was one of the many reasons I not only decided to study a PR related course, but also then decided to start my own blog.

So, for me, it is not hard to see why she has been given the title of ‘UK’s Best PR Blogger’ for not only 2018, but also 2019.

This is why I wanted to do an interview with her, for those that may not know her, in order to get to know Orlagh and find out what drives her in staying so dedicated to her blog and also to find out what her future plans are now that she has graduated. I feel that Orlagh will have some great advise for this years final year CMPR and CAM students.



Siobhan: 
Hey Orlagh, how are you? I have seen that your life has been crazy at the minute, so I appreciate your time to complete this interview. We are both from the same hometown and have both chosen to do PR related courses. You have now graduated with a first class honours, well done! So my first question for you is a typical one, why PR?

Orlagh: Hey Siobhan, I’m really good thanks! Ah, I always dread this question even though it’s so straightforward. I had always planned on following a career in finance, but my interests were always centred around magazines, fashion, entertainment and music. But growing up in the small town that we come from, a career in any of those industries was never really seen to be real or achievable to someone from Lurgan, in my eyes. But I spent three days at a PR agency in Belfast for work experience and I was sold. I wasn’t really able to explain PR to my mum and dad (or myself) but I just knew that it would allow me to somehow follow my dream career in one of those areas and be able to work with journalists since I had squashed my own idea of being a journalist once my two favourite magazines folded. Choosing PR meant that I was going to give myself a lot of options once I graduated from university and only once I started to study PR at LJMU did I realise just how many opportunities PR opens up.

Siobhan: How would you describe your course at Liverpool John Moore University?  What did you enjoy about it and was there anything you didn’t like about it?

Orlagh: It was a good course. I studied Business with Public Relations so I was able to also study modules like Marketing, Accounting and Finance, HR and Corporate Social Responsibility alongside my Public Relations modules. I enjoyed that part of it a lot as I now have a fair bit of insight into these areas of business that I wouldn’t have if I had studied Public Relations on its own. Another thing that I loved about the course was the option to carry out a placement year. I knew I was going to be making use of this once I had applied for the course.

What I didn’t like about the course was probably that it was very top line. Unlike a few other universities, my lecturers weren’t very active online in the PR community. They didn’t promote writing a blog like Conor McGrath from the University of Ulster does or Richard Bailey from Leeds Beckett. They didn’t really seem to know what was happening outside of LJMU or even that I had a blog and had won an award. It kind of felt like you were there to get the bit of paper at the end and that was it.

Quite like the schools back home, the main career choices were pointed towards working in corporate comms, crisis comms or internal comms for not-for-profits and public sector organisations. Roles such as publicity, influencer marketing and social media management weren’t discussed much or thrown into the equation.

Siobhan: Why did you choose to go overseas for university rather than stay at home?

Orlagh: Being honest, I couldn’t wait to get away from Northern Ireland. I was around 17 when my dad told me to get out of Northern Ireland as soon as I could, to make a better life for myself. I knew that there weren’t any opportunities for me and I wanted a change of scenery. I wanted to broaden my horizons, meet a lot of new people, live in a new city and see what England had to offer. I also think that if I hadn’t moved to Liverpool for university, I probably wouldn’t have applied for a placement in London as I would have gotten too comfortable being at home. Moving to England at 18 was probably the best decision I have ever made as I think everything that has happened since then has been a ripple effect from that moment. Right now, looking at Northern Ireland in the news and just being away for so long has really made me realise how far behind NI is and how much it is struggling in terms of government, healthcare, prospects etc. I know I won’t be coming home for a very long time, that’s for sure.


Siobhan: So you said you did your placement year in London, what was your experience with that? 

Orlagh: Yes! And it was the best year of my life so far, without a doubt. I was able to carry out a placement year at Coty Inc. in London working in the Luxury PR and Influencer Marketing department. I lived and breathed my job and was so excited to go to work every single day. I was basically living my childhood dream of working with magazines, going to fashion events, music events, movie premiers, working with huge fashion labels etc. It was everything I imagined and more. My placement year made me realise that you really can find a job that you enjoy and wake up excited to go to. Now that I’ve had that, I don’t want to settle for a job that I don’t enjoy when I could be working and progressing at one that I do. My team were the best, my role was the best, the other interns were great and living and working in London was an overall great experience and one that I won’t be forgetting for a long while.


Siobhan: How did you become the UK’s best PR blogger for 2 years running?

Orlagh: Truthfully, I don’t really know. I started blogging at the beginning of my second year of university, so three years ago now. I think it really helped that I was consistent and kept blogging at least once every single week and I think with the amount that I was writing, I was improving with the practice and with every blog post that I wrote. On my placement year my content really ramped up which I think helped a lot. Then during my final year, I still managed to post at least once a week, sometimes up to three times per week and was able to give a speech to students at Greenwich University in London as well as be active on social media, contribute to Twitter chats and network with other PR professionals.

I think the main thing was consistency. I made myself stick to posting something every single week and then just got into the habit of doing it. Now, it’s second nature to post at least once per week and when I don’t post, I have a weight on my shoulders until I do. I think the more time I invested into my blog, the more my stats progressed and the more recognition I received, the more I became pretty obsessed with my site. I was constantly trying to make it look better, write better content, make it easier to navigate, make social media pages for it etc. I’m quite proud of how far my blog has come in the past three years and I think the time that I put into it shows for itself. I would be up to all hours of the morning blogging away and neglecting all of my university work just so I could focus on my own website instead. And now the middle of the night is the only free time I have to blog in New York.


Siobhan: How did blogging help you during your time at university? And how do you think it has help you in your career path?


Orlagh: I guess for university purposes, it helped a lot with my essay writing. I was writing 1,000 word blog posts a few times per week, so when I was given a 2,000 word essay, it didn’t seem as daunting. This is also how I approached my dissertation. To me, 10,000 words was just like writing 10 blog posts – achievable. It also helped a lot in terms of knowing what was going on in the world of PR and being able to draw examples for my work as I was constantly reading about PR and getting involved in conversations surrounding what was currently happening.

The main thing that my blog helped me with was my career, for sure. I really do think I owe my placement year at Coty to my blog and the opportunities that followed. Any public relations graduate can say that they are interested in the subject since they studied it, but a blog really emphasises how much you are invested in the industry since you are constantly writing, reading and talking about what’s going on. Having a blog about your degree topic is probably one of the best things to have on your CV (if you can write and spell well of course).

There’s a lot of writing involved in PR, so your blog would be a great example of your capabilities, who you are as a person and your skillset for the working world of public relations.

 

Siobhan: What does the next year have in store for you now that you have graduated?

Orlagh: After graduating in July of this year, I moved to New York City at the end of August to work for a year in influencer marketing. I feel extremely lucky to be here and can’t believe that I actually am. I’ve only been here six weeks but working and living in New York has been everything I imagined and more.

I’m excited to learn more about influencer marketing and further my knowledge and skills in the area as it’s the career path that I currently want to follow and work in once my year in New York is up.

So for now, I’ll be spending the next 12 months in NYC working in the finance industry and seeing and doing as much as I possibly can. Where blogging fits into that, I don’t know as I don’t seem to have a spare minute to myself at all.


Siobhan: What advice would you give to the CMPR/CAM students of Ulster University to help them get through final year?

Orlagh: Enjoy it as best you can! It may be called final ‘year’, but in reality it’s around eight months maximum. Those months will go by in a flash and it will be straight out into the real world. Make the most of your lie-ins, your flexible calendar, your student discount, living with your friends, many nights out and everything that your university offers. I was able to go to Amsterdam with my course during my final year and it was the best way to celebrate the end of our four years together.

Also, look out for one another. Final year can be very tough and you can feel a huge amount of pressure when thinking about what you’re going to do next. That was probably the toughest part of final year for me – deciding what my next career move was going to be. Make sure your classmates are finding everything ok and if they are struggling, help them. There is no competition in university as you all want to finish with the top degree, so help make sure all of you get the result you deserve.

But seriously, enjoy it. Don’t feel that because you are in your final year that you need to spend the entire time in the library. Do your work on the weekdays and enjoy yourself on the weekends. You can have the best of both worlds and still finish with a first class degree. As long as you put the work in, you’ll get the mark that reflects it.


Thank you so much to Orlagh for being involved in this blog post and answering some questions for me. I feel that we can all take in this quality advice from Orlagh to help us complete our degrees.

View Orlagh’s award winning blog by clicking here.

 

Siobhan McKerr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations staudent at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @Siobhan_mckerr, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-mckerr and Instagram: @Siobhan_mckerr.

Following in Dad’s footsteps – how did I end up here?

From the ages of 12 to 16, if you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer certainly would’ve changed depending on my mood. Whether it was a barrister, a pathologist, or a translator, I pretty much wanted to be everything under the sun at one point or another. But one thing that stayed consistent was that I had absolutely no interest in following in my parents’ footsteps and becoming a civil servant or going in to marketing.

I just always had the mentality that following in your parents’ footsteps would somehow take away from your own individuality – something that was very important to me. So, how is it then that 5 years later I’m embarking on the final year of my CAM degree and currently working as a marketing assistant?

Again, it wasn’t just that I woke up one day and decided to copy my dad and go on to study marketing, it was a very unconventional and at times very difficult path that brought me to where I am today. I’ll begin with September 2014, aged 16 and just starting lower sixth studying French, Irish, Maths and History, not anywhere close to the subjects you would expect a future CAM student to study, right? Well as I said I couldn’t decide on a specific career path before picking A Levels so with the idea that a lot of degree courses don’t expect specific subjects, I decided the safest option would be to go for the ones I enjoyed most.

But, week one of lower sixth comes to an end and my whole life changed. On Friday 5th September 2014, my dad suffered a massive stroke that initially left him with a 30% chance of survival, complete right side paralysis and global aphasia*. We were told that our whole lives would have to change and that my dad would be left in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, never speak again and would need 24/7 care. Being the optimists that we are, we took this with a pinch of salt and kept focusing on him making a full recovery (side note – five years on he is walking, driving and even has limited speech). We did however, know that this was going to take a lot of time, effort and money from the whole family. With my mum and sister both working full time, I even considered  leaving school to care for him but after lots of discussions, I realised that as an educator, my dad would never have accepted this. We decided we had to keep everything as normal as possible because after all, our lives had changed enough – I was going to stay in school, my mum and sister were going to stay in work and we were all going to take on the responsibility of caring for my dad and taking turns with the everyday responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, shopping etc.

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This was of course very difficult and I could write an entire book on that story alone but alas we are talking about my path to marketing. During the mid-term break over Halloween, all lower sixth students had to embark on a week’s work experience, not having time to apply for work experience myself because my dad was still in hospital gravely ill, I reached out to two of my dad’s friends who worked in PR and Graphic Design to ask if they could take me on for a couple of days. They were of course willing to do anything possible to help and so began my journey into this industry.

I spent the first three days of the week shadowing Joanne McNeill at her PR agency, McNeill Communications – at this point I had zero idea what PR actually meant, apart from knowing that some of my friends did PR for Thompsons and Filthys. I did know that it was along the same lines as marketing and had therefore decided that although this experience wouldn’t help me in my career, it would be nice to get a few days away from school and the hospital. Within the first few hours of shadowing Joanne, my mind had been completely changed. We had been working on launch events and planning for a Red Bull event and it all seemed like the most interesting work in the world – I hadn’t enjoyed myself so much in a long time. The last two days of the week were spent with Mark Mulholland at Whitenoise Designs and although we both knew for certain that I was never going to me a graphic designer, he brought me to an event set up and showed the ins and outs of all the technical and branding elements. This was an amazing experience and set in stone my love for corporate events.

I’ll skip on a year to the start of upper sixth when we were about to attend the open days at Queen’s and Ulster and we had to do some research on the degrees they offered so that we could make the most of our time and attend specific talks. At this point, I still had some interest in keeping on my language studies and I was STILL set against studying straight marketing because I did not want to end up on the same career path as my dad, after all it was PR I’d fallen in love with at this stage. I hadn’t heard of anyone doing a degree in PR and didn’t really think such a thing existed so I was leaning towards French and International Business at Queen’s. Then, as I was browsing through the Ulster open day schedule, I noticed the CMPR and CAM talks and was instantly intrigued.

I went on to apply for both courses and sit my A Levels and months later after painstakenly waiting for remarks to meet the CAM grade boundaries, I was officially a CAM student.

Now three years on I’ve just completed a twelve month Corporate Communications internship in London at The Walt Disney Company and I’m currently working as a Marketing Assistant at Mirror Media. Needless to say, my 17 year old self was naive to the similarities between PR and marketing and when I decided to go into PR I firmly believed I was not following in my dad’s footsteps. But, alas, here I am, unintentionally following my dad’s discipline that I’d always been so against and I have to say that I couldn’t be happier. The past five years have of course taught me a lot but I’ve mainly learned that the bad things that happen to us are only going to teach us lessons that no book will and sometimes they’ll even lead you down the best path. I’ve learned that it’s important not to stress too much about your career path and as cliché as it sounds, everything will work itself out in the end.  

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*Global Aphasia – This is the most severe form of aphasia, a language impairment, and is applied to patients who can produce few recognizable words and understand little or no spoken language. Persons with Global Aphasia can neither read nor write.

Emily Spackman McKee is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter @_spackman and LinkedIn Emily Spackman McKee 

I’m Back.

What to write about? It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, writing about my deepest darkest secrets. And my ideas for my first blog post are lacking. But hopefully the more I write, the more creative juices will just flow from my fingertips to my keyboard.

So ~building suspense~ as my first blog post back, I am going to write about placement. You’ve probably just been knocked off from your seat. Shocked by the creativity of a third year CAM student. Writing about placement.

I was going to be one of those students that gives you monthly updates placement, but I didn’t feel I had the expertise or experience to give you monthly updates. But, I’m 8 months in now and boy, have I gained experience. So here’s my take from placement, with only a few months left.

Don’t Stress // Now, those of you know me are thinking ‘how can Alex tell me not to stress?’ And yes, this is true, I stress when I am running low on milk, so you can imagine the stress a hunt for a placement position brought. This time last year, I received another decline, with the hope of an interview (never mind a job offer) quickly seeming further from my grasp.

I’m sure there are many of you in the same position and don’t stress about it – apply for jobs you are genuinely excited about and in the meantime perfect your CV, write a killer cover letter and gain experience wherever you can to bulk up that LinkedIn Bio.

It’s all about your attitude // ‘What’s for you, won’t pass you’. I remember I was first told this by my Mum and it’s a saying that has really stuck with me. Now 5 weeks into Semester 2, receiving your 900th placement email and with 3 assignment deadlines approaching, this attitude is hard to maintain. I understand that struggle.

But do stay positive, rejections are hard to get over, but you should see them as a learning curve – how can you improve your CV? What techniques can you use in your next interview? Was your cover letter as well-researched and unique as you once thought? Remember, that interview, call back or job offer will come at a time you will least expect it.

Be in the know // Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, we are spoilt on how we can stay connected with industry updates, leaders and campaigns. Whilst I received an email about my position, I first saw it on LinkedIn and without seeing the post, I don’t know if I ever would have applied. I was able to see what the company was up to, who worked there and the company’s culture.

Acting like an MI5 agent and doing a background check on the company that has invited you in for an interview will put you in a strong position. It will show initiative by researching the company and communicate a passion for their activities. So, if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile by now, get one, you might sign up and stumble upon a job advert that interests you.

I feel like three hints for the placement process is enough, so I’ll give some advice on what I have learnt on placement so far. And I think the best way to start this, is share what I do, I work at Intel Ireland, holding the position of Media and Education Intern. I could write a whole blog post on what I’ll do, but I’ll leave that for my placement report and upload that to Turnitin rather than here. But in the short, I love it and with final year getting closer and closer, time can slow down.

Don’t take uni for granted // For those studying CAM like me, we have been blessed with a course that is max 12hrs a week, with Monday’s and Friday’s off, enjoy this time. It can seem like a lot with the various assignments, placement emails and simply functioning, but enjoy it. When placement hits, you’ll be working 40hrs a week, with only your evenings to do as you please, rather than finishing at 1pm and feeling like you still have the whole day. 

Placement should be enjoyable // Placement is hard, I’ve learnt that from first hand experience, you’re thrown in the deep-end and suddenly you have responsibilities that matter and have an affect on other people. But this is all a learning curve and you should (hopefully) be enjoying it. You will be working on projects related to your course, working with people who may have your dream job and working for a company you would love to return to. Appreciate your placement opportunity, enjoy it and see it as a chance to learn and develop your skill-set.

So, there you have it – a very small portion of advice relating to placement, take it or leave, these are just my learnings.

And if you’ve learnt nothing, you now know I stress when I’m low on milk.

Alex Slaine is a Third Year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. He is currently working as Media and Education Intern at Intel Ireland on his placement year. He can be found on Twitter – @alexslainee; and LinkedIn – Alex Slaine

Placement Panic

 

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It was the first day back to uni and I was into second year of studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Jordanstown. I knew the daunting process of applying for placement awaited me this year however, I did not expect a full debrief from my placement coordinator Conor McGrath on the matter on my first day back (bearing in mind this was first thing in the morning during Freshers week).

I slowly began to realise during this lecture that come summer time I wouldn’t be texting my friends asking to do stuff; I would be working 5 days a week, which I had never done before. However, a tiny part of me was excited and I suddenly felt (kind of) like an adult.

Conor warned us that our email inboxes were going to be bombarded with placement advertisements from him, the majority of them being across the water. This made me feel anxious because there were roughly only 30-40 placements in Northern Ireland and the rest were in England so I didn’t know where my fate lay. I had many questions in my head “Why can’t we be assigned a placement?”, “What if I get rejected or don’t get an offer at all?” And I can guarantee I wasn’t the only one who was or still is, thinking this.

I tried to put the subject of placement to the back of mind – until 20 minutes after I left that classroom and the emails began flooding my phone screen. As John Green said in The Fault in Our Stars, “Like falling asleep: Slowly and then all at once”, this is the only way I can describe the emails.

Building a CV

I knew the competition was going to be fierce so eventually I began preparing my CV. I had barely any experience in Marketing and PR as my last two jobs were in hospitality, what was actually going to set me apart from everyone? From using tools like V Mock (It gave me A LOT of criticism which I was glad of) to reading a blog by Orlagh Shanks (a PR student at Liverpool John Moores University), I tried to make my CV sound and look the best it could be.

Applying 

Conor reinforced to only apply to placements that sparked interest. I wasn’t going to apply for a placement at BMW – what did I know about cars? I wasn’t interested in communications so I avoided that field and focused on Marketing and PR. It was around October time when I saw an ad for a Marketing role in Belfast at a company known as ‘Your Body Map’. I was intrigued by the name so I read further into the description of the business and the role being advertised. I read the words ‘Software platform’, ‘Health and Beauty businesses’ and ‘online’ and was interested right away. I knew this was the sector I wanted to gain experience in and this could be the perfect opportunity.

Things were about to get serious…

I sent my CV to the employer and about a week later I received an email that I was being invited for an interview. I honestly couldn’t believe it. This was one of the three applications I had sent so far and my first interview. After the disbelief and excitement settled, I began to get nervous. I had been to interviews before but nothing as formal as I imagined this one was going to be. In order to prepare for an interview I would advise:

  • Do a lot of research into the company
  • Prepare typical questions that your CV might raise – The night before my interview my friend Bronagh attempted to run through some questions with me but we both couldn’t take each other seriously if I’m honest.
  • And be prepared for the unexpected (lol I was asked what my ideal superpower would be)

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The morning arrived and I dressed smartly and headed to the office. As I waited in the front foyer the butterflies in my stomach got worse, I hadn’t felt this nervous since I was waiting to hear if I had passed my driving test or not. I was brought through to a room and there I sat in front of a panel of CEO’s. I began telling them about myself and responding to a series of questions which put me at ease as the panel was extremely nice and NORMAL – I think everyone assumes an interview panel are going to be scary and intimidating but they really weren’t.

The interview lasted roughly 20 minutes and I left it feeling relieved, content and hopeful. I really liked this company and if I got offered a placement there I knew I would be happy. The following week I received an email from one of the CEO’s; I read the first line on the preview “Hi Shauna, following your interview on Friday…” I felt sick. Was I about to get rejected or actually succeed? I opened the email and scanned to see my fate. I had actually got it; I couldn’t believe that the first interview I done, I succeeded in!

What am I doing now?

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Fast forward to where I am now, I started working one day a week for Your Body Map in November which I think has helped me massively as it has eased me in slowly and made me feel comfortable. We are currently transitioning to ‘Aubergine’, a really exciting project that is launching in April so keep your eyes peeled as students will love it. My role consists of market research and managing/writing social media content which has allowed me to gain new skills alongside my studies. I have met so many new people within the company and outside it. Placement isn’t so daunting after all!

For anyone who is yet to receive a placement offer or is awaiting a response, do not panic. Make use of the resources to build your CV and be yourself in the interview. I doubted myself and my ability a lot but it worked out in the end – like it does for everyone. I just kept telling myself ‘What’s for you won’t go by you’ and it was true!

Thanks for reading X

 

Shauna McKillop is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @ShaunaMcKillop – LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/shauna-mckillop-499596176 – Instagram: shaunamckillopx

What To Expect When You’re Expecting

To anyone who has clicked on this post thinking that I’m pregnant or that I am offering pregnancy advice, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. But thanks for clicking. I’m actually writing about what to expect when you’re expecting a placement, so if this may help you, please stay tuned.

When I was applying to placement (after placement, after placement) I had the mindset that I would pick a few I liked, apply, they’d love me and I’d get the job. Well, it wasn’t as big-headed or far-fetched as that but you can understand how straightforward I expected it to be. You might be in a similar mindset so I’m here to give you more of a realistic expectation to how applying for placement really works and what you should expect.

 

  1. FEELING CLUELESS

Your placement year is something you’ve known about when choosing your course, starting your course, during your whole first year and yet when second year comes around and you realise that you need to get a placement you feel utterly offended that no one had mentioned this to you or helped you with this yet.SD1

So in your best attempt to overcome complete cluelessness, you should attend a class regarding placement guidelines or at least try to keep up to date with emails. If you’re still feeling clueless, don’t worry, everyone is. At this stage it’s important to ask for help. This could be with your CV, a meeting with your careers department or even just asking people in your class.

Understanding the whole equation of everything involved in a placement takes time. Do not worry. Your clueless hours of thinking “what?” on repeat will end and you will start to get your head around what is expected.

  1. INFORMATION OVERLOAD

When checking your emails and employability portal for placement opportunities, you will quickly come to realise the vast number of placements that are actually available. There are specific key months when every placement ever seems to be open at once and you could spend days reading about the job description, the company, etc. This is overwhelming. This is information overload.

My advice in this instance is this; in your attempt to filter through the never-ending list of placements, do not rule out placements just because you haven’t heard of the company. Take time to explore the company’s website, learn about their culture and research exactly what your role will be. The time taken will be worth it and you may even be at an advantage over the huge influx of people applying to the big names. Just because they’re bigger, doesn’t mean they’re better.

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  1. NO INVESTMENT, NO RETURN

From the above, you should now realise that applying for placements isn’t just a few clicks and uploads. In my opinion, it’s the applications that are the hardest part and after that it’s a matter of waiting for replies and then preparing for interviews. But you can only really relax and enjoy the latter if you actually put time and effort into each of your applications. Each application is different. Don’t use the same cover letter with a few different words changed (trust me, they’ll notice). It’s important to understand that no two roles are the same so your applications shouldn’t be.

If you don’t invest the effort, you are highly unlikely to get anything in return. It took me three hideous applications to realise this and looking back I can’t believe I questioned why employers weren’t tripping over each other to offer me an interview when in reality they probably blacklisted my CV.

  1. TIME, TIME, PRECIOUS TIME

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If you’re second year at university, the likelihood is that your time mostly revolves around sleeping, drinking, going out, being hungover, thinking about what will make you feel less hungover, thinking your hangover is over then realising it was just the start, eating, going to university, being on your phone and on occasion, doing work for university. And in this jam-packed schedule, where on earth is the time to apply for placements?! * The truth is you have to make time. There’s no cheats or fast routes, it takes time and you need to make the time no matter what other commitments you have, drinking included. Even if you try setting out two days in the week to focus specifically on research and applications for the placements you want, it will really help.

At the start, expect to be bewildered at how it took you two and a half hours to write your CV profile section and blown away at the fact that it still sounds like the first one you read off Google and did your best not to copy. The more time you put into it, the better it will be and you’ll be constantly tweaking and fixing bits to end up with an application you’re happy with. But please, don’t underestimate the time it takes. It’s probably the most important thing for you to take from this whole piece if you take anything at all.

*Apologies to anyone who does not have the student time-schedule as the one mentioned above. I’m sorry that I stereotypically profiled you under a student experience umbrella based on what I’m used to. Well done for being studious, the rest of us envy you a lot.

  1. GETTING GHOSTED

This is probably the most infuriating thing that you should expect. And also very, very common. Expect long waits of thinking, “no I’ve definitely got this one, no point applying anywhere else, this is the one” and proceeding to find out someone else in your class got the role last week. As far as I was aware, there’s no procedures in place that say employers have to let you know if you’ve been rejected. And on the off chance that you are an employer and you’re reading this, please let a student know if they haven’t been successful in their applications, it’s polite and really helpful. So expect to be ghosted and my advice in this instance would be to set a realistic time limit before moving on and trying your best at your next application. It can be really disheartening but it’s just what you’ve got to do.

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Thank you if you’ve made it to the end and have actually read the full thing. I hope it helps you if you’re in the position of applying to placements or if you’re on placement/have been on placement, I hope you can relate to the struggle. Also, it’s not all doom and gloom and once you’ve gotten your placement you feel amazing and have such a massive opportunity ahead of you, but that’s all for another post!

 

Scout Dobbin is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on placement as a Marketing Assistant. Scout can be found on Linkedin – Scout Dobbin ; Twitter – @scoutdobbin ; Instagram – @scoutdobbin